In present-day Nashville, Tenn., Kieran Lucas recently connected with her grandmother who is suffering from dementia. Kieran treasures the time she can spend with Granny Mac because her stories “helped fill the holes left from Kieran’s fractured childhood.” On her lucid days, Granny Mac reveals bits and pieces of her family’s history, and Kieran begins to understand her people’s connection to their Cherokee ancestors and the displacement of private landowners to make way for the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934. Kieran also witnesses Granny Mac’s agitation as she is plagued by memories of her mother Rosie’s mysterious and traumatic death, and her obsession with a little stone bird that Rosie had received from her Cherokee great-grandmother and carried in her apron pocket. Granny Mac keeps insisting that Kieran holds things too tightly and needs to go get the bird because it belongs to her.
In 1931, Rosie McCauley and her sister Lorna make their home in the Great Smoky Mountains. Their parents are no longer living, and Rosie feels the privilege and burden of caring for Lorna who is unable to speak and relates to people in her own unique way. Though Lorna is considered “feebleminded” by the locals, she has a gift for caring for animals and understands more than people realize. When the private landowners in the Smokies are pressured by the United States federal government to sell their land to make way for the establishment of a national park, many families agree to a settlement and leave their homes. But Rosie refuses, knowing that Lorna will never be able to thrive anywhere besides their home in the mountains.
In separate, side-by-side narratives juxtaposing Rosie and Kieran’s stories, author Karen Barnett explores the theme of releasing control of one’s own life and surrendering to God’s will. In this novel for adults, Barnett masterfully relates Rosie and Kieran’s losses, loves, and faith journeys, finally merging their narratives as questions about the past are answered and resolutions in the present are discovered. (Kregel)